Focus on Sustainability: The Valley’s “Bikeability”

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Transportation planners and bicycle advocates talk about what’s being done to make the Valley a better place to travel by bicycle.

Bicycling video: How to make the valley more bike-able? That is the focus on sustainability. First producer David Majure and photographer Cano take us for a ride.
I can't remember a time in my life where I really never owned bike.
John calls himself a lifestyle cyclist. He rides to compete and just for the fun of it.
The same reason people run. The same reason people hike. You know, it floods the brain and body with endorphins. It is the sheer enjoyment of being outdoors in the wind, moving.
RAMIRO also rides to work on a regular basis.
South mountain, 20th street, South Mountain.
12 mile trek to downtown Tempe. The trick getting there safely knows the best way to go.
Low density traffic. Two lane roads as opposed to four lane thoroughfares.
He cuts through neighborhoods and follows paths along canals as much as possible. When he is ready to crossover Interstate 10, he rides in a lane --
Indicate that even though there is no bike lane here, you know, bikes are still coming through here, and, you know, yield to them. Allow them to use the lane. Signs posted that say -- that show a picture of a bicycle, may use full lane.
He doesn't give valley drivers very high marks for knowing how to share the road with bikes.
I would say four. It also depends on the area you are in. Tempe is a very bike-heavy community. People are far more aware. A lot more people here that bike. When I ride on the west side of I-17, not so good. You know. Not such good bike infrastructure. A lot less awareness. I think Scottsdale, another great place to ride. A lot of impatient drivers there too. Big vehicles, moving fast and sometimes they don't give you the right of way that you should get.
When Ramiro reaches his workplace in downtown Tempe, he doesn't have to shift gears at all because his job is bicycle advocacy. Cofounder of the bicycle cellar, bike shop located on the first floor of the Tempe transportation center. It is a public/private partnership with the city that gives commuters a place to store their bikes and get cleaned up before heading into work.
You come here, you park your bike, and it's safe. You get key card access. Access the facility 20 hours a day, 365 days a year. Shower facilities --
So I can change after my morning exercise, changing into clothes and head into work.
The cyclists we talked to said the valley is a pretty good place to ride, but there is plenty of room for improvements.
There are challenges. Intersections where there are not bike lanes, you have to be careful because motorists may not see you or run into you or turn in front of you.
My scariest moment is crossing major intersections where the bike lanes disappear and turn into turn lanes for cars.
A lot of cyclists say it is a great place to ride. The weather is so good. We have nine months of spring. Increases the quality of living when a city can say, you know, we live in a bike-able community. Family friendly, bike friendly, you know, tourist friendly, those sort of livability qualities for a city, they're invaluable.

Ted Simons: Here to talk about bicycling in the valley, Reed Kempton, chair of the bicycle and pedestrian committee for the Maricopa association of governments, Eric Iwersen, and the bicycle coordinator for the city of Phoenix and cofounder of the bicycle cellar. Good to have you here.
All: Thank you.

Ted Simons: A lot of folks look like they're getting the job done bicycling. How does the valley compare to other regions?

Reed Kempton: We think we're really high. We have several cities in the valley rated by the league of American bicyclists as bicycle friendly communities. And the improvements made in the past two decades are tremendous. 400 something miles of bike facilities in 1992 to almost 3,000 today.

Ted Simons: Very good. What can we do better? Where is the area for improvement?

Eric Iwersen: I think there has been a tremendous effort, regional coordination, cities working together. There has been a big push by several cities and the region to fund these types of projects. And I think to get better, we should continue that focus of funding projects and have that political and community support and pull it all together more and keep moving in that direction.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about some of the projects. Phoenix and Tempe have this bicycle boulevard going on here. What is that all about?

Joseph Perez: Bike Boulevard a great way to get from Tempe, Glendale, downtown Phoenix. It is really neat. Somewhat experimental. Using green paint. And it is pretty neat the way we are combining street lane markings with green paint to put something where bike lane is not currently.

Ted Simons: Okay. How much does something like that cost?

Joseph Perez: Depending on what we are doing, bike lane costs about 1,000 per side per mile. This particular green paint is a little more expensive. A little wider. Shared lane markings a little wider. $250 each. Green paint couple thousand for the paint.

Ted Simons: Let's talk other areas of improvement. A bicycle map out there. How much does that help? Is that a factor? Do people look at these kinds of things?

Reed Kempton: I think they do. Especially if they are just thinking about starting to commute to work. Pull down the map, available online. A lot of people call us and say how can I get to work from here? Here is where I live. Those riding a lot can help out. We try to keep people off the major streets, but in a lot of cases that is the only way you are going to cross the rivers and freeways.

Ted Simons: Tempe did what was called a bike count. Like a survey, interesting things in there. What did you find about cycling habits and concerns out there? It sounds like people are riding on the wrong side of the road all of the time.

Eric Iwersen: That is a real common problem, riding against the flow of traffic. A big reason why people are doing that is they feel they don't have a safe way to get from point A to point B. And so it is a matter of having enough facilities on every road, having safe facilities on every road and having the ability to cross a road at convenient points so that people can get to the right side of the road to go with the flow of traffic. Removing obstacles, like freeways, railroad tracks and getting over the things easily so you can go with the flow of traffic.

Ted Simons: What makes a dangerous intersection? What makes safe intersections? And how can cities and municipalities keep the traffic moving but keep the bikes moving too?

Joseph Perez: Well, it is certainly not safe when you are riding against the flow of traffic. Bicyclists should realize that that is the easiest way for them to realize to get into a collision with cars. They should ride on the right side of the street with the flow of traffic. The cars in an intersection, left turn arrow, solid green ball. Intersecting arterial streets. Arterial intersections are much more risky than a collector or local. So, if I'm riding a bike, I usually like to ride back streets. I don't like to ride down 7th avenue or 7th street. I like to ride down 3rd avenue or 5th avenue or 3rd street.

Ted Simons: Again, would you talk about what makes a safe intersection and what makes a dangerous intersection. 7th avenue, 7th street, seems a little dicey for some cyclists. What makes a safe street and how municipalities can encourage that change.

Reed Kempton: Speed of the traffic, volume of the traffic, width of the outside travel lane. Wider the outside travel lane is the more comfortable it will be for the bicyclists. A street with 15-foot lanes, we narrow them down and make room for the bike lane on the side. That gives the cyclist a place to ride. Little thing. When you approach an intersection, we keep the like lane between the right turn lane and the through travel lane. That gives the cyclist very clear spot to be when they're at the intersection.

Ted Simons: And that gets to things like buffer lanes, correct? The idea of separating the bike from the traffic with a little lane, a little couple of lines, is that what that is?

Eric Iwersen: Yeah, certainly that is a technology that can be used. Having a separator between the bike lane and the rest of the vehicle lanes. Large issue, how do you make a street safer? How do you make an intersection safer? We have been building them a certain way for 50 years, 75 years, and that was to encourage faster traffic and more vehicle traffic. And I think we have to be conscientious to try to re-characterize streets a little bit more towards having them include all types of travel on those streets. It is a redesign and re-characterization of how we are thinking about intersections and streets.

Ted Simons: Last question. Are city leaders thinking along the same lines or is it a battle?

Joseph Perez: No, certainly city leaders are thinking about this on the same line. Recently, went on a bike ride down Central Avenue in honor of a young boy. A great Saturday morning ride, three miles central, Dunlap -- it is coming. Leadership is seeing the fruits of what cycling can bring.

Ted Simons: That is right -- all right. Good to have you all here.

Talking about the city's deal with the Phoenix coyotes.

Ted Simons: What Peoria is doing to grow companies that make medical devices. That is Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," 5:30 and 10:00, right here on 8-HD. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

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